tv [untitled] April 5, 2012 12:30am-1:00am EDT
the west overplover plantationss prepared to reinitiate offensive operations. as you know, this would not happen. mcclellan was ordered to move his army to northern virginia in the next month. now, i can see that by the clock on my wall and the watch on my wrist i'm dangerously close to using up more than my time. how much time do i have, john? five minutes max. so, let me hustle, hurry through the remainder of my points. mcclellan at this point had established himself as the architect of a grand army. but he would exceed this in the next month after the army of virginia under john pope was destroyed at second manassas and retreated pell-mell toward washington. once again the president had to
rely on the one general he knew who could build an army from scratch and so he did. he called mcclellan back. he reorganized the army of the potomac. and he moved subsequent to the battle of second manassas into maryland where lee had taken his army in northern virginia. on the 13th of september, 1862, he came across a marvelous special order 1891 outlining how lee was conducting his campaign. mcclellan has sent this message down to washington, lee has made a gross mistake. i have his plans. i'm going to defeat him. i'll send you trophies. and then came in rapid succession the battle for the south mountain on the 14th of december where mcclellan's battle went into battle cheering, less than two weeks
after they'd been defeated at second manassas. they seized passes over the south mountain and fought lee on the bloodiest civil day in the civil war, along antiem creek. he should have soundly defeated lee's army. part of his army wasn't even employed. that would be fitzjohn porter's fourth corps. but later on the 17th as they held a little council of war many of the generals said let's go after lee again. remember, general, my corps represents the last reserve of the last army between lee's great force and our nation's capital. and that's really all it took. there was no more attack. soon after the battle was concluded at sharpsburg, lincoln gave up trying to urge mcclellan
to destroy lee's army rapidly. he came up there. had this meeting that was captured by the famous photograph, yes, yes, i understand we'll move into virginia as soon as i get my horses shod properly and my men back in proper uniform. they followed the virginians south to the potomac in late october and, in fact, when positioned to undertake a vigorous campaign in the spring of 1863. that was enough for lincoln. on the 7th of november, he relieved mcclellan of command. and on the 11th of november, mcclellan's train pulled out. his duty with the u.s. army was over. so, why am i recommending him as a person of the year? huh? well, because this general built the army of the potomac, not once, but twice. this general infused it with a spirit that would carry it through three successive
commanders. this is the army that took the most casualties, this is the army that took lee's surrender. iirst great commander, mcclellan helped that to happen in that first year of 1862. so, if we could find a copy of a "time" magazine -- for 1862, i think you'd see george mcclellan as our person of the year. thank you very much. i think we have time according to wade for one quick question. susan? >> isn't it true that after the war ended when someone asked general lee who his favorite general was on the union side
that he said mcclellan? >> i'm not so certain that it was his favorite general. i think at one point a lot of confederates thought he was the most dangerous. the most dangerous of the federal generals because he had a more fulsome understanding of the art of war as had been explained by prince chamonix of the napoleonic school. general lee later said after three or four changes in the commander of the army of the potomac, i fear that they will eventually appoint someone in command that i don't under. thank you so much. >> okay, gang, it's quarter of three. let's take 15 minutes and let's be in your seats ready to go at 3:00.
>> live coverage from the library of virginia of a discussion on the person of the year 1862. five historians presenting their case and nominating individuals for person of the year 1862. we have heard from four of the historians so far and here are the nominations, robert crick nominated, thomas stonewall jackson. robert crick was the former head of fredericksburg battlefield. we heard from david blithe who dominated frederick douglass. james mcpherson nominated a miller david farragut and you heard the nomination of george b. mcclellan. we're going to open up our phone lines for your thoughts and your comments and questions about the day and hear your comments for john mountcastle as well. a couple of ways you can participate by phone, the numbers are 202-3855.
and also for the mountain and pacific it's 585-3856. we wanted to remind you in case you missed today's procedure at the library of virginia, we will reair all of this in its entirety including the phone segments this evening at 6:00 p.m. eastern and 1:00 a.m. eastern on sunday morning. that's ahead of us. also this afternoon if you don't get through on the phones if you want to make a comment at twitter.com you can do that and the handle we're using for twitter is totw1862. and also on facebook, facebook.com/cspan. before we speak to john mountcastle. a tweet from tammy price, she says her choice for person of the year 1862 would be frederick douglass although i think lincoln would be better for this year than for last year. you may recall we covered this event last year and abraham
lincoln was choice for person of the year 1861. john mountcastle joins us from the library of virginia. mr. mountcastle, a pretty compelling case for general george b. mcclellan in 1862, and we have a lot of phone callers waiting to hear from you, let's go first to norman in east lansing, michigan, good afternoon. >> caller: good afternoon. dr. mountcastle, do you think if lincoln would have just let mcclellan stick to his plan and not interfere like a good leader should, that mcclellan's strategy would have actually won the war? and also why do you think mcclellan gets such a bad rap amongst your fellow historians? >> norman, that's two key questions, i think. first, the president was under tremendous pressure not strictly
in a strategic sense but most assuredly in a political sense being battered on several sides, there had been success as we heard earlier, along mississippi, they captured new orleans and certainly in the upper reaches of the cumberland tennessee river by forces led by men like ulysses grant, shiloh was a victory even before the peninsula campaign started. so it was not just an issue of letting mcclellan do what the general does best, ie, conduct campaign strategy, but in truth trying to reassure the public in general, the congress in particular, and to an extent those people who controlled the information flow to the public. in those days the newspaper editors around the united states
that there was a viable plan and that this was going to result in victory in a short period of time. another thing to remember that in 1862 the united states had not initiated conscription as yet. there was no draft. all the soldiers in blue were volunteers. and we know from our u.s. history that volunteerism will carry an army into a war but not necessarily carry it throughout a war. and so the pressure to bring it to a swift conclusion was there always. as to regards your second question, why does mcclellan not rate any higher among historians. well, i think we have certainly the benefit of hindsight as to compare it with who. if that question were asked by some means of magic we were
writing history in 1863 compared to irvin mcdowell who lost the first battle of bull run, mcclellan was a great success. that's why he was elevated to the position. compared to generals who were politically appointed, those that were defeated left and right in the shenandoah valley, people like nathaniel banks, defeated by -- and fremont defeated by stonewall jackson, mcclellan was a profession. but later when compared to people like ulysses s. grant, sherman who split the confederacy in two, mcclellan does not compare as favorably as those men, who took their west point training and their prewar experiences and brought forth a winning combination. although -- >> our guest is john mountcastle, go ahead, finish
your thought. i'm sorry. >> i would say that the spirit that he engendered in the fighting soldiers within the army of the potomac while not 100% in favor of mcclellan was so strong that they never truly forgot him. and in that regard he was regarded by many of his contempora contemporaries than better in history. >> john mountcastle teaches civil war history and a former chief of the military history. here's katherine, next up. >> caller: i'm from cleveland, ohio, and i'm 11 years old, i think general mcclellan was disrespectful -- >> katherine, it's a little difficult to hear you. if you're on a speakerphone can you pick up. oit tou it's tough for us to hear. >> caller: i heard that george
b. mcclellan was very disrespectful to abraham lincoln. he told his wife the president was an idiot and that he was no more than a well-meaning baboon. is this true? >> george mcclellan had, you know, prewar experience with abe lincoln when mcclellan was vice president of illinois central railroad and able lincoln was a lawyer working on cases for the railroad. and they actually spent time together traveling to different points along the railroad working on court cases to get rights-of-way and so forth. and he managed to get along fine with lincoln during that period and he enjoyed abe lincoln's propensity to entertain people around a fire in a little tavern or a hostel around the way with anecdotes based on his experience as a backwoods lawyer. but when lincoln was elevated to president and mcclellan became
his subordinate, then the essential, social impediments if you will that mcclellan took with him from his upper middle-class background began to show. and he began to regard lincoln as an interloper. we would not i think in our u.s. history see this again in such a striking degree until general george douglas macarthur in the korean war lost faith in harry truman, whose senior rank in the u.s. army had been captain of artillery in world war i as macarthur had been before world war ii the chief of staff and then subsequently the commander of all army forces in the pacific and again in korea. when the generals forget that in our country the constitution requires that we support the constitution but we also follow the orders of our civilian
heads, they are -- they're going to eventually come to ruin and that's what happened to george mcclellan. >> about five more minutes before the program resumes there at the library of virginia. a couple more callers for john mountcastle. here's kevin in los angeles, welcome. >> caller: hello, general. i want to ask one question. you mentioned that he was the -- an observer in the crimean war. how much of an impact observing the crimean war have on him? what did he see? what did he experience? >> thanks, kevin, that's a great question. because it wasn't that easy for the americans to get into the area of operations. the french and british were not especially enthused over the idea of a bunch of american army officers coming into the midst of an operation that was not going particularly well, and so they had to fight to get first to the battle area, and then second to get the kind of information that they felt would be useful to the united states
army. an army that, remember, at the start of the civil war only amounted to 18,000 people in total, and of that, maybe 1,500 officers and the rest enlisted soldiers spread from coast to coast in little garrisons and places like fort sumter and fort monroe, and the city of san francisco and so forth. so, the crimean experience certainly gave mcclellan as a trained engineer who had also helped with the siege at veracruz, mexico, a better idea the difficulties of siege craft. i don't think it had a direct impact that showed up in textbooks in west point or in manuals for the u.s. army to use in the field just six years later. >> let's go to asheville, north carolina. one more call here for john mountcastle. good afternoon to jay. >> caller: yes, sir, thanks for taking my call. my question is regarding
secretary stanton. was he not extremely exasperated from time to time with mcclellan and did he not say that if he had a million men, he would sit in the mud and whine until he could get 2 million? and i'll take my answer off the air. thank you. >> thank you, jay. >> yes, jay, that's a great point. edwin stanton had been very much in favor of the promotion of george mcclellan to commanding general of the army as opposed to the defeated irwin mcdowell and the aged winfield scott. but as soon as they began to work closely together, friction developed here. stanton was a republican. mcclellan was a -- what was then called a war democrat, someone who was in favor of certainly restoring the union, but not much else. and so they had different political views, different personalities, and stanton did complain, mcclellan always
wanted more men and he wanted them yesterday. and so that's why after the failure to take richmond in 1862, mcclellan was ordered to begin shipping his army back up to the washington area and was not reinforced for a second try in richmond. it wouldn't be until grant came in 1864 that richmond would hear cannons just outside its gates once again. >> john mountcastle thank you for taking time and spending with our viewers here on "american history tv." >> i appreciate it. and i appreciate the great questions. >> john mountcastle's nomination once again was george b. mcclellan. he's the fourth out of five historians who will nominate person of the year 1862 here at the library of virginia in richmond, and we will go back in just a moment to hear from emery thomas, professor of history emeritus from the university of georgia. the nominees are frederick douglass, stonewall jackson,
restarted. gee whiz, jack mountcastle, george mcclellan, what an interesting choice. it's my great pleasure to introduce our fifth and final nominator, emery thomas. he drove up from athens, georgia, where he's a professor of history emeritus at the university of georgia, but he's really coming home. he and his wife fran are native richmo richmonders. as a matter of fact, emery starred on the thomas jefferson high school football team as the center and the quarterback was james henry benford p.iii who is now the superintendent at the virginia military institute. emery went from thomas jefferson to the university of virginia, where he was a two-sports star. one as the center on the football team, and two is the captain of the party team at the deke house.
emery has written widely and perceptively on many aspects of confederate history and biography including the volume about the confederacy in the new american nation series, an acclaimed biographies of jeb stewart and robert e. lee. he's an old friend of the museum of the confederacy and has written and lectured about the museum itself and its role in civil war memory. his latest work "the dogs of war 1861" is a collection of essays that are apropos of the civil war sesquicentennial, he'll be in virginia in april lecturing about jeb stewart at the university of mary washington. great live series on april 3rd. today he'll be nominating -- i can't say it, i'll let him tell you. but, emery, if you get up here and talk about jon bankhead mcgruder, i'll cut you short and we'll get on with robert e. lee.
>> thank you very much. you didn't mention some embarrassing things. fortunately. i did some work on "time's" person of the year before coming here. i thought it would be a better look if i could see what they'd done to maybe project your voting this most influential person in 1862. supposedly this -- i mean, journalistic legend has it that it was a slow news week in 1927, and "time" was smarting because they had failed to put charles lindbergh on their cover.
when he flew across the atlantic. and so they had to do something, and so they decided, oh, let's have a man of the year and made charles lindbergh the first. it was so popular that they've had others, one each year and changed it to person. interestingly enough there are no historians have made this team. unless -- unless -- we count gabor borat. in 1956 "time" had the hungarian freedom fighters, and gabor, i don't know how much freedom fighting he did, but i know he fled hungary in 1956. that's the closest we get to an historian making person of the year. they're not many rebels of consequence or the ones that e
are are of great consequence, gandhi, ayatollah khomeini made the team and generated krrable criticism and "time" had to jump up and down and say influence, influence, influence in defending their choice. martin luther king. not many american southerners who were not presidents of the united states, lindbehin lyndon and jimmy carter, except martin luther king, ben bernanke, clinton, south carolina. no, not clinton, south carolina, dillon, south carolina, south of the border. sp supposedly it was his first job. ted turner. and newt gingrich.
and that's -- i don't know if that's a stretch or not, whether he was -- is or should be a southerner. because he was born in pennsylvania i think. just because he represented georgia and taught at west georgia. well, anyway. "time" has tended until very recent years to be a very conservative, very loose, lucite publication you might say tending towards republicans and consensus sorts of people. chiang kai-shek made it, madam chian made the team. mao tse-tung never made person of the year. when "time" decided to
acknowledge the american woman in 1975, they had some significant people, billie jean king and others, but they somehow in their list of folks on the cover or pictures of people on the cover overlooked betty fredan and gloria steinem. this is a pretty establishment, up east sort of people. and so i wonder about nominating someone. the person i'm going to nominate, however, achieved probably the first thing he did in 1862 of great consequence was to frame some legislation that transformed a modern industrial nation, would-be industrial, would-be nation into a modern nation.
framed in legislation. this person also near the end of 1862 laid some claim to be a significant emancipator of slaves. and so the person i'm nominating, you all have figured out by now, this creator of a modern nation, this emancipator of slaves, was robert edward lee. pause for applause. okay. let me suggest some of the context here in which lee functioned. because through the first year of the american civil war, which includes half of -- if it